Sitting atop the group with two wins from two, qualification to the Round of 16 is already assured for France. What is not so assured, however, has been the performance of the team. As a result of a very disjointed performance in their opening win against Australia, France boss, Didier Deschamps, shuffled his pack and system for their match against Peru, opting for a 4-2-3-1 with Olivier Giroud as his focal point up front. The changes worked a treat in the first half as his inclusion brought Antoine Griezmann into play and afforded Kylian Mbappe greater license and space to bomb forward into. The second half of that game, however, was far from convincing as they struggled to regain control from a marauding Peru and created few chances for themselves.
Denmark should count themselves as lucky to be in the position that they are in – four points from two games and in with a decent shout of progressing, even if they lose, should the result in the other match go their way. They have not impressed in either match and have Christian Eriksen to thank for their progress to this point. It’s not unusual for a team’s best player to be the difference-maker but Eriksen too, a handful of inspired interventions aside, hasn’t exactly impressed. It’s unlikely that N’Golo Kante will be leaving him too much length on the leash.
At this point, it’s difficult to know what team that France will field but it’s possible that Deschamps will give a run out to some of those previously confined to the bench. Whether or not this will work in their favour is difficult to say. Denmark, whatever team they put out, will likely still be dour and uninspiring. With a nod to the fact that France are favourites, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if a draw broke out between the two.
All or Nothing for Australia against Peru
The pluckiest pair from Group C have one point between them and two goals scored, both of which were penalties but when we say “between them” we should clarify that those figures belong to Australia – Peru have nothing but memories so far. Australia were gallant and slightly unfortunate in their loss to France and the better side in their draw with Denmark. Crucially for them, they know that they are still in with a shout of progressing from this group should France beat Denmark and they beat Peru with a greater goal difference than Denmark enjoy some the end of the day. When the conversation gets to permutations, it has the smell of clutching at straws but a shout is better than nothing and the Socceroos will go hell for leather to make it happen.
Peru have been widely lauded for the passion of their fans and the buccaneering exploits on the pitch. They’ve been a breath of fresh air, it’s been said. Laudable though the accolades are, it has amounted to nothing in terms of points on the board and their tournament adventure is done without even a goal scored in anger. That latter statistic is the only aspect of their World Cup that they have the power to change. A win would soften the blow of their exit to a point and it would offer them some crumbs of comfort to dine out on in the years to come. They have played with passion and pride throughout but have lacked the necessary quality and composure to make it count.
Curiously, to the mind of this column at any rate, the market makes Peru favourites to win. As far as we’re concerned, the cold-eyed awareness of what is at stake will be enough to see Australia do what they have to do to give themselves a shout of progressing to the Round of 16. We can imagine an early goal for Australia knocking the wind out of Peru but not so much Australia if that scenario was to be reversed. With that in mind, we’re backing the Socceroos to do what’s required and get the win.